Weekend Preview: UND vs. Colorado College

#1 North Dakota (12-3-1, 5-1-0 NCHC) hosts unranked Colorado College (7-6-1, 2-4-0 NCHC) in the last weekend of action for both squads before winter break.

UND finds itself on top of the national rankings and in the all-important Pairwise rankings thanks in large part to its impressive non-conference victories…

North Dakota blanked #6 Wisconsin 2-0 at Ralph Engelstad Arena back on October 14th.

UND was also able to avenge its only two non-conference losses of the season (vs. #10 Minnesota, at #2 Boston University) with wins the following night.

The Fighting Hawks have also taken care of business in NCHC action, sweeping at Minnesota Duluth and at home against Miami before taking four of six league points at #4 Denver last weekend.

According to KRACH, North Dakota has faced the nation’s sixth-toughest schedule to this point of the season, while the Tigers’ schedule weighs in as the 25th-most difficult. Despite its tough slate of games, the Green and White are tied with Quinnipiac for the best winning percentage in college hockey (.760).

Before we dig into this weekend’s matchup between the Hawks and Tigers, let’s take a quick look back at the past few games between the two teams…

Last season, the teams only played two games, and, in a strange February series in the Springs, North Dakota earned a 2-1 overtime victory on Friday before the two teams skated to a 0-0 tie in the rematch, just the third scoreless game in UND hockey history.

North Dakota went 6-0 against CC two seasons ago, outscoring the Tigers 20-7. The two first-round playoff games in Grand Forks were tight affairs, with UND advancing to St. Paul by virtue of a pair of 2-1 victories. In that series, all six goals were scored in the second period.

When the teams squared off at brand-new Robson Arena for a December 2021 series in Colorado Springs, the Fighting Hawks secured the road sweep with 5-2 and 4-1 victories. Those games dropped the Tigers to 3-10-3 on the season.

UND held the advantage in all phases, outshooting the Tigers 62-54 and winning 72 of 119 faceoffs (60.5%). North Dakota scored three power play goals on nine attempts and held Colorado College to just a single power play goal in ten man-advantage opportunities.

After that weekend, the Tigers went 4-4-0 against Arizona State, Miami, Denver, and Omaha to close out January, much more respectable results for first-year head coach Kris Mayotte. Mayotte replaced Mike Haviland, who went just 74-177-28 (.315) in his seven seasons behind the Tiger bench, with no regular season or postseason titles and zero NCAA tournament appearances. Haviland had something brewing from 2017-2019, with his teams going 32-37-9 (.468). Things fell off over his last two seasons, however (15-37-5, .307), and it was time for a change.

February and March of 2022 were not kind to Mayotte’s squad, however, as the Tigers won just twice in their last twelve games. Both of those victories came in overtime against Miami (4-3, 3-2). In the other eight, CC was outscored 30-11.

Two of those losses came on February 11th and 12th at UND. Colorado College put up a good showing in Friday night’s 3-2 defeat, nearly overcoming a 3-0 first-period deficit and outshooting North Dakota 26-21 for the game. The Fighting Hawks turned the tables in Saturday’s 4-0 triumph, sweeping the regular season series between the two teams by a combined score of 16-5.

In the last eight games against CC, North Dakota has only trailed for a total of eleven minutes and fifty seconds.

Colorado College also traveled to Grand Forks to face UND in the first round of the playoffs in 2014, 2015, and 2016. As I’ve written about before, it is difficult to end a team’s season, and tight Saturday night elimination games are to be expected, even after relatively comfortable Friday night victories. In fact, UND’s 2016 sweep (7-1, 5-1) is one of only two playoff series in recent memory that did not feature at least one close contest.

Here are the results from the past four first-round playoff series between North Dakota and Colorado College:

2014: UND 4-2, CC 3-2 (OT), UND 4-3
2015: UND 5-1, UND 3-2
2016: UND 7-1, UND 5-1
2022: UND 2-1, UND 2-1

CC was also scheduled to face the Fighting Hawks in 2020 before the college hockey season was canceled due to COVID-19. And two seasons ago, the Tigers dressed just eleven forwards, five defensemen, and one goalie for their opening-round game against St. Cloud State at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Despite losing a blueliner to a major penalty in the second period, Colorado College took SCSU to the wire, surrendering the game-winning goal with less than four minutes remaining in the contest.

Ten full seasons have come and gone since the college hockey landscape changed forever. With Minnesota and Wisconsin departing the Western Collegiate Hockey Association for the Big Ten after the 2012-13 season, several other conference schools and two members of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association created the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and left Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, and Minnesota State behind in a watered-down WCHA. And now, the WCHA is no more, and the CCHA reformed beginning with the 2021-2022 campaign.

The NCHC has been the premier hockey conference since its inception, and particularly over the past nine seasons. The eight teams in the league have gone 475-240-82 (.647) in non-conference action since the start of the 2014-15 season and sent twelve teams to the Frozen Four (UND and Omaha in 2015, UND and Denver in 2016, Denver and Duluth in 2017, Duluth in 2018, Denver and Duluth in 2019, Duluth and St. Cloud State in 2021, and Denver in 2022) over that eight-year stretch (there was no national tournament in 2020). Conference members North Dakota (2016), Denver (2017, 2022), and Minnesota Duluth (2018, 2019) have won five of the last seven national titles.

#1-ranked North Dakota has gone 12-3-1 against Army, #6 Wisconsin, #10 Minnesota, Minnesota State, #2 Boston University, Minnesota Duluth, Miami, Bemidji State, and #4 Denver with a record of 8-1-1 at home and 4-2-0 on the road.

How has North Dakota made such a dramatic turnaround in just one season?

After missing the national tournament last year, head coach Brad Berry and his staff brought in fourteen fresh faces, tied for the second-most in team history. More strikingly, all eight defensemen are new to the UND men’s hockey program, including four freshmen.

Coincidentally, the breakdown of first-year players and transfers into the North Dakota system is identical:


Four defensemen (Nate Benoit, Tanner Komzak, Jake Livanavage, Abram Wiebe)

Two forwards (Michael Emerson, Jayden Perron)

One goaltender (Hobie Hedquist)


Four defensemen (Logan Britt, Keaton Pehrson, Garrett Pyke, Bennett Zmolek)

Two forwards (Cameron Berg, Hunter Johannes)

One goaltender (Ludvig Perrson)

These fourteen newcomers join eleven returning forwards and second-year netminder Kaleb Johnson to form UND’s 26-player roster. The Fighting Hawks return 70 goals up front, led by senior Riese Gaber (20 goals last season) and sophomore Jackson Blake (16). With the addition of Berg (10 goals last season at Omaha), Johannes (13 at Lindenwood), and Chicago Steel (USHL) teammates Emerson (30) and Perron (24), North Dakota should easily surpass the 102 goals scored all of last season by its forward group.

Over the first sixteen games of the 2023-2024 season, UND forwards have scored 56 goals and are on pace for 126 goals in the regular season alone. It is also encouraging that nine North Dakota forwards already have multiple goals this season, led by Blake (11), Gaber (8), Berg (7), Johannes (7), and Perron (7).

Perhaps alarmingly, Fighting Hawks defensemen have only scored four goals this season (Britt 2, Livanavage 1, Pyke 1) to go along with their 29 combined assists in 98 games played (0.34 points/game). The offensive output from the blue line has been increasing lately, with Livanavage in particular chipping in more regularly (six assists in his last four games).

By comparison, Tiger defensemen have scored seven goals and added twenty assists in 90 games played (0.30 points/game).

A half-point per game or better is my benchmark for solid offensive production, and Kris Mayotte’s squad has seven players who meet that threshold: sophomore forward Gleb Veremyev (6-6-12), sophomore forward Noah Laba (6-5-11), senior forward Logan Will (3-6-9), sophomore forward Ryan Beck (2-5-7), junior forward Stanley Cooley (1-6-7), freshman forward Evan Werner (4-3-7), and freshman forward Zaccharya Wisdom (3-3-6).

By that same measure, North Dakota has nine players at a half point or better, including three skaters averaging at least a point per game: sophomore forward Jackson Blake (11-11-22), junior forward Cameron Berg (7-9-16), sophomore forward Owen McLaughlin (4-11-15), senior forward Riese Gaber (8-6-14), graduate forward Hunter Johannes (7-5-12), freshman forward Jayden Perron (7-1-8), junior forward Jake Schmaltz (0-6-6 in 12 games), senior defenseman Garrett Pyke (1-11-12), and freshman defenseman Jake Livanavage (1-7-8).

Livanavage was recently named to the initial U.S. World Junior roster, one of ten defensemen going to tryout camp from December 14th-16th. Three blueliners are expected to be cut before the team travels to Gothenburg, Sweden for the World Juniors, which will take place from December 26th through January 5th.

The Colorado College and North Dakota team rosters feature a family connection. Drew Montgomery (3-3-6 in 14 games) is a freshman forward for the Tigers, and he has played a number of different roles for CC this season. His brother Dane Montgomery is a junior forward for UND, and he has slowly worked his way into the lineup, appearing in four of the past five games while scoring a goal and adding an assist.

Offensively, UND far outpaces Colorado College. To this point of the season, North Dakota has scored 60 goals (3.75 goals per game, 7th in the country), while CC has managed just 43 (3.07, 28th).

The Fighting Hawks are 8th in the nation in shooting percentage at 11.7%. Colorado College clocks in at 10.5%, good for 19th in the country.

Even though both teams are scoring on a high percentage of their shots on goal, why is UND so much better offensively? Because North Dakota puts the puck on net. To this point in the season, the Green and White have 511 shots on goal. Colorado College? 411.

This averages out to 31.9 shots on goal per game for UND (17th) and 29.4 shots on goal per game for CC (33rd).

On the defensive side, UND has only allowed 395 shots on goal this season in 16 games (24.7/game, 6th), while Colorado College has allowed 400 in 14 games (28.6, 23rd).

These two teams are both in the top third of all teams in the nation in two key puck possession statistics:

North Dakota: 17th in Corsi (53.4%) and 9th in Fenwick (55.7%)
Colorado College: 18th in Corsi (53.1%); 23rd in Fenwick (52.5%)

Corsi measures the share of shot attempts for each team at even strength, while Fenwick measure the share of unblocked shot attempts for each team at even strength.

As always, a key area to watch this weekend is the face-off circle. The Fighting Hawks are the nation’s fourth-best team on draws (54.8%), while the Tigers clock in at 53.6% (13th).

For UND, junior Cameron Berg has been making a living on draws, winning 169 of 270 (62.6%). Senior Louis Jamernik V (105 of 192, 54.7%) and sophomore Owen McLaughlin (100 of 186, 53.8%) have more than held their own.

For the Tigers, senior Logan Will has been the best option (143 of 242, 59.1%). Kris Mayotte has also called on sophomore Noah Laba (118 of 223, 52.9%) and junior Stanley Cooley (120 of 233, 51.5%).

To this point in the season, North Dakota has had the better of the specialty teams play. UND has been a combined plus-9, with twelve power play goals scored (12 of 61, 19.7%, 25th in the country) and six power play goals allowed (41 of 47, 87.2%, 11th), with three shorthanded goals scored and none allowed.

The Tigers have posted a minus-6, with just SIX power play goals scored (6 of 69, 8.7%, 63rd), twelve power play goals allowed (48 of 60, 80.0%, 40th), two shorthanded goals scored, and two allowed.

It is also worth noting that UND has earned fourteen more power plays than penalty kill situations (61-47), while CC has had the advantage nine more times (69-60).

North Dakota is 7th in the country in scoring offense (3.75 goals scored/game) and an equally impressive 6th in the country in scoring defense (2.19 goals allowed/game).

Colorado College is 28th in the country in scoring offense (3.07 goals scored/game) and 26th in the country in scoring defense (2.79 goals allowed/game).

A huge key to UND’s defensive turnaround this season has been the play of senior netminder Ludvig Persson. The transfer from Miami has played every minute between the pipes for the Fighting Hawks, posting a record of 12-3-1 with a goals-against average of 2.12, a save percentage of .914, and three shutouts.

Last year, UND’s team save percentage was .886, the fifth-worst mark among 62 teams. To put the difference in perspective, North Dakota allowed 110 goals on 962 shots last season. If we apply Persson’s save percentage from this year to that shot total, the Fighting Hawks would have allowed a total of only 83 goals, a difference of 27 goals over the 39-game season.

And what difference does one goal make? UND found itself in a Pairwise predicament last season due to three tough losses:

Arizona State 3, North Dakota 2 (October 29th, 2022)

Miami 4, North Dakota 3 (November 19th, 2022)

Minnesota Duluth 2, North Dakota 1 (January 21st, 2023)

All three of those games were tied in the third period.

North Dakota currently finds itself in first place in the all-important Pairwise rankings, with victories over Boston University (PWR 2), Wisconsin (PWR 6), Denver (PWR 7), and Minnesota (PWR 11) certainly helping the cause. With a current non-conference mark of 7-2-1, good results at home against Alaska (PWR 26) on January 5th and 6th, and a top-four finish in the NCHC, UND should be a lock for the national tournament. It is also important to point out that the Fighting Hawks currently have a winning record against the B1G Ten (2-1-0), the CCHA (3-0-1), and the AHA (1-0-0), with a .500 mark against Hockey East (1-1-0). Since Alaska is playing this season as an independent and thus will not impact conference comparisons, UND has itself in fine shape for the NCAAs.

At #29 in the Pairwise, Colorado College has some work to do to earn the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2011.

North Dakota only has six games remaining on the schedule against the top twenty teams in the Pairwise (at PWR 14 St. Cloud State, vs. PWR 7 Denver, and vs. PWR 12 Western Michigan). After this weekend, UND’s other twelve games are vs. PWR 21 Alaska, vs. PWR 22 Omaha, at PWR 41 Omaha, at PWR 29 Colorado College, vs. PWR 39 Minnesota Duluth, and at PWR 22 Omaha.

At 5-0-0-1 in league play, North Dakota sits in second place, behind only St. Cloud State (6-0-0-0). Colorado College has a league record of 2-4-0-0, good for sixth place in the eight-team league.

In the NCHC, Colorado College has finished 7th, 8th, 8th, 8th, 7th, 6th, 8th, 7th, 7th, and 7th for the worst average finish (7.3) among all eight league teams. North Dakota leads the conference with an average finish of 2.6 (2nd, 1st, 1st, 4th, 4th, 5th, 1st, 1st, 2nd, and 5th).

In terms of common opponents, CC played a home-and-home with Denver and lost both games (1-6, 1-5). Last weekend, North Dakota traveled to Denver and emerged with a win and an overtime loss , collecting four of six league points.

Colorado College Tigers

Head Coach: Kris Mayotte (3rd season at CC, 29-52-6, .368)

National Rankings: NR/NR
Pairwise Ranking: 29th
KRACH Rating: 136.9 (#22)

This Season: 7-6-1 overall, 2-4-0-0 NCHC (6th)
Last Season: 13-22-3 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 6-13-2-3 NCHC (7th)

2022-2023 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.07 goals scored/game – 28th of 64 teams
Team Defense: 2.79 goals allowed/game – 26th of 64 teams

Power Play: 8.7% (6 of 69) – 63rd of 64 teams
Penalty Kill: 80.0% (48 of 60) – 40th of 62 teams

Key players: Sophomore F Gleb Veremyev (6-6-12), Sophomore F Noah Laba (6-5-11), Senior F Logan Will (3-6-9), Sophomore F Ryan Beck (2-5-7), Junior F Stanley Cooley (1-6-7), Senior D Jack Millar (1-5-6), Freshman D Max Burkholder (2-3-5), Senior D Nicklas Andrews (2-3-5), Sophomore G Kaidan Mbereko (7-6-1, 2.61 GAA, .909 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (9th season at UND, 192-95-32, .652)

National Rankings: #1/#1
Pairwise Ranking: 1st
KRACH Rating: 725.5 (2nd)

This Season: 12-3-1 overall, 5-0-0-1 NCHC (2nd)
Last Season: 18-15-5 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 7-10-5-2 NCHC (t-5th)

2023-2024 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.75 goals scored/game – 7th of 64 teams
Team Defense: 2.19 goals allowed/game – 6th of 64 teams

Power Play: 19.7% (12 of 61) – 25th of 64 teams
Penalty Kill: 87.2% (41 of 47) – 11th of 64 teams

Key Players: Sophomore F Jackson Blake (11-11-22), Senior F Riese Gaber (8-6-14), Graduate F Hunter Johannes (7-5-12), Freshman F Jayden Perron (7-1-8), Sophomore F Owen McLaughlin (4-11-15), Junior F Cameron Berg (7-9-16), Senior D Garrett Pyke (1-11-12), Freshman D Jake Livanavage (1-7-8), Graduate D Logan Britt (2-4-6), Senior G Ludvig Persson (12-3-1, 2.12 GAA, .914 SV%, 3 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: February 25, 2023 (Colorado Springs, CO). The two league rivals skated to a 0-0 tie, just the third scoreless game in UND hockey history. One night earlier, North Dakota freshman Jackson Blake netted both goals – including the overtime winner 29 seconds into the extra session – in a 2-1 Fighting Hawks victory. UND outshot CC 34-18 in Friday’s opener; Riese Gaber had two assists.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: March 12, 2022. In a carbon copy of the previous night’s league playoff opener, North Dakota sandwiched two second-period goals around a CC marker to survive a tight 2-1 contest. The Tigers outshot UND 30-22 for the game; each team scored once on the power play. In Friday’s opener, the Fighting Hawks outshot CC 23-16.

Most Important Meeting: March 27, 1997. UND defeated Colorado College, 6-2, in the Frozen Four Semifinals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two nights later, North Dakota downed Boston University, 6-4, to claim its sixth NCAA Championship. North Dakota and Colorado College also met in the 2001 East Regional (Worcester, Mass.), with UND prevailing, 4-1.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 173-84-12 (.665), including a sparkling mark of 111-22-7 (.818) in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1948; North Dakota’s 173 wins over the Tigers are the most against any single opponent in program history.

Last Ten: North Dakota has nine victories and a scoreless tie in the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring CC 31-9 over that span. In those ten tilts, the Tigers have been shut out three times, scored a single goal five times, and managed two goals twice. The Fighting Hawks’ last loss to Colorado College was at CC on March 1, 2019 (1-3).

Game News and Notes

North Dakota head coach Brad Berry is 24-4-2 (.833) in his head coaching career against Colorado College. CC has won two national titles (1950, 1957). Since 1957, the Tigers have appeared in the NCAA tournament thirteen times (most recently in 2011) and advanced to three Frozen Fours (1996, 1997, 2005). Head coaches Scott Owens (1999-2014) and Don Lucia (1993-1999) combined to lead CC to six regular-season titles, twelve NCAA tournament appearances, three Frozen Fours, and one national championship game appearance (1996). Only five UND players expected to be in the lineup this weekend have scored goals in their careers against Colorado College. North Dakota netminder Ludvig Perrson has never beaten the Tigers (0-4-2 with Miami). Colorado College is 7-3-1 when leading or tied after one period of play but 0-3-0 when trailing. The Tigers have scored a total of three goals in their last four games combined (0-3-1). UND’s 173 wins over CC are the most over a single opponent in the history of the program.

The Prediction

Everything points to a North Dakota sweep, but goaltending can be the great equalizer. CC netminder Kaidan Mbereko has given up more than two goals just once in his last six starts. One of these games will be closer than the other, and I’ve got a feeling that it’ll be the opener. UND 3-2, 4-1.

Broadcast Information

Both games will be broadcast live on Midco Sports Network and will also be available via webcast at NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network as well as through the iHeart Radio app.

Social Media

Keep up with the action live during all UND hockey games by following @UNDmhockey and @UNDInsider on Twitter. Fans can also read the action via Brad Schlossman’s live chat on the Grand Forks Herald website.

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!

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